The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery
|The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery|
|Engine||SCI Engine v2|
|Platform(s)||MS-DOS, Macintosh, Microsoft Windows|
|Genre(s)||Interactive movie, point-and-click adventure|
The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery (also known as Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within) is an interactive movie point-and-click adventure game released by Sierra On-Line in 1995. Unlike its predecessor Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, released in 1993, The Beast Within was produced entirely in full motion video. The technology was popular at the time of the game's production with the recently introduced storage capabilities of CD-ROMs, but was expensive to produce. Its sequel, Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned used a rendered 3D engine.
The Beast Within is a point-and-click adventure game, played from a third-person perspective. The game is divided into six chapters and the player controls Gabriel and Grace alternately between the chapters. They conduct their investigations separately for the most of the game, only joining forces in the finale.
The storyline weaves together werewolf mythology and Bavarian history with sexual intrigue and businessmen's quest for their primal roots. The game's two lead characters are Gabriel Knight (portrayed by Dean Erickson) — the seemingly less-than-bright but smart-as-a-fox mystery writer and bookstore owner — and Grace Nakimura (played by Joanne Takahashi), his less-than-trusting and keen assistant. Knight has inherited a castle in a small German village, and the title of Schattenjäger ("shadow hunter" in German) that comes with it for members of his family. It has been a year since the voodoo murders case (Sins of the Fathers) and the local villagers implore him to investigate the mysterious death of a little girl — caused, they believe, by a werewolf. Knight and Nakimura's search for clues takes them to Munich, King Ludwig II's famous Neuschwanstein Castle, Altötting and Bavaria's forested countryside. Their efforts lead them to discover a lost Richard Wagner opera, and uncover the truth about King Ludwig's mysterious death.
- Dean Erickson - Gabriel Knight
- Joanne Takahashi - Grace Nakimura
- Andrea Martin - Gerde
- Kay E. Kuter - Werner Huber
- Nicholas Worth - Kriminal-Kommissar Leber
- Fredrich Solms - Harald Übergrau
- Peter J. Lucas - Baron Friedrich von Glower
- Richard Raynesford - Baron Garr von Zell
- Clement von Franckenstein - von Aigner
- Wolf Muser - Doktor Klingmann
- Bruce Ed Morrow - Mr. Smith
- Judith Drake - Mrs. Smith
The game was released for PC and Macintosh. The Macintosh version uses a video player developed by Sierra instead of an off-the-shelf technology such as QuickTime, and had a tendency to crash or run slowly on 680x0 processors. There is an XP-compatible re-print on DVD with de-interlaced movies, but it is exclusive to the Italian market.
The Beast Within has a much more involved plot than its predecessor, Sins of the Fathers. Jane Jensen said that this was because the FMV graphics "limited the interactivity we could do. I specifically tried to put a lot more intrigue in the plot, so even though the interactivity was easier, there would still be enough meat going on to keep people engaged."
The role of Gabriel Knight was re-cast, since Jensen felt Tim Curry, who voiced Knight in Sins of the Fathers, didn't look the part. Dean Erickson took the part, and delivered a take on the character markedly different from Curry's. Erickson explained "There was no way I was going to do Tim Curry, because... you know, Tim Curry is Tim Curry. He was a little more animated or maybe you could say over the top. What he was doing called for that. What I was doing called for something a little more down to earth and grounded." He clarified that "[Curry] only voiced a character and, due to the nature of animation, voices often need to be more over-the-top, because they have to impart more of everything without the visual aspect of a real, live person on screen."
To prepare for the role, Erickson intensely studied films with Southern characters and voice tapes of Southern dialects in order to make his accent sound natural. He enjoyed the role and later said that if the Gabriel Knight series had continued using live action FMV, "I would have done the next five or six."
Filming for the cut scenes was done in California during mid-1995. Erickson recalled that due to video game budget constraints, the actors were expected to show up at the set prepared to give a perfect delivery; director Will Binder would not run more than two takes of any scene unless absolutely necessary. In addition, all of Erickson's narrative voice overs were recorded in a single day at a sound studio.
According to Jensen, The Beast Within badly ran over its "original modest ... budget." She summarized:
"Let's just say that the struggles between budget and schedule vs. production standards vs. story and content were about as bad on GK2 as I've ever experienced, not just for three months or so, but for the entire production phase, about 18 months. For 18 months I had the Sword of Damocles - that ultimate designer threat of either cancellation or serious cuts and restructuring hanging over my head."
In Neuschwanstein the actual paintings in the Singer's Hall were changed to correspond with the plot. The filming for the cut scenes was partly documented in the British series Bad Influence, leading to presenter Violet Berlin having a brief walk-on cameo.
According to Todd Vaughn of PC Gamer US, the original Gabriel Knight was not as successful as Jensen had wanted. However, he noted before The Beast Within's release that "she's hoping the same attention to character development and puzzles, coupled with the new video technology, will satisfy both the hard-core puzzler and reach a broader audience."
In every Gabriel Knight game, the popular gospel hymn "When the Saints Go Marching In" can be heard, albeit in different remixes and forms. In The Beast Within it is heard when Gabriel is visiting the Marienplatz in Munich.
As well as creating the soundtrack for the second game alongside Jay Usher, series composer Robert Holmes wrote the music for a scene from the fictional opera entitled "Der Fluch Des Engelhart" ("The Curse of Engelhart").
In the United States, The Beast Within was the fourth-best-selling computer game of January 1996, and the 17th-best-selling of the first six months of 1996. The game its predecessor, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, sold a combined total of 300,000 copies by December 1998. Leslie Gornstein of the Orange County Register wrote that these numbers were "considered a success in the world of adventures, according to Jensen." Elsewhere, Jensen expressed frustration with The Beast Within's commercial performance. She wrote that she had expected it to appeal to a large, mainstream audience, and remarked in retrospect, "I thought it would be top ten. And it was - for about a week." Jensen further commented that the game's Christmas Eve launch was a contributing factor to its underperformance.
The game was very well received by critics; at GameRankings it scores 90.50% (based on 6 reviews). William R. Trotter of PC Gamer US wrote that "The Beast Within sets a new standard — within the graphic adventure genre, at any rate — for interactive entertainment." In Computer Gaming World, Johnny L. Wilson similarly declared it "a graphic adventure benchmark."
Critic Philip Jong of Adventure Classic Gaming gave the game 5 out of 5 stars, saying that it "is an epic interactive adventure that triumphs in both gameplay and storytelling. It masterfully blends fantasy and a touch of real life history to add an unparalleled degree of realism to an adventure game. With this title, Sierra On-Line sets the standards for developing strong female leading roles; Jensen should be praised for her development of an intelligent female role model." A Next Generation critic likewise praised the character of Grace, as well as Joanne Takahashi's "appropriately sardonic" performance in the role. He compared the game favorably to Sierra's Phantasmagoria (which uses the same engine), citing the greater amount of gameplay content and better scenery, and rated it one of the overall best graphic adventures due to its "detailed and evolved storyline with an easy to use yet sophisticated graphic system". Maximum commented that "The Beast Within is one of the few [interactive movies] which manage to grasp the attention of the player, largely due to the interesting plot that runs throughout. Graphically the game is pretty smart too, the digitised actors working well with the computer-generated [scenery] on which they're super-imposed."
The Beast Within won Computer Gaming World's 1995 "Game of the Year" award, and was named the best computer adventure game of 1995 by Computer Games Strategy Plus, and the best of 1996 by GameSpot and PC Gamer US. It also won GameSpot's "Best Story" prize. Hailing it as "one of the best adventure games ever", the editors of PC Gamer US wrote, "If it had been just a movie, The Beast Within would easily beat 99 percent of what passes for horror on the big screen these days." The staff of Computer Gaming World called it "the continuation of a brilliant tradition—the graphic adventure as art."
The Beast Within was a finalist for the Computer Game Developers Conference's 1996 "Best Adventure Game/RPG", "Best Script, Story or Interactive Writing" and "Best Use of Video" Spotlight Awards. However, these prizes went respectively to The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, You Don't Know Jack XL and Wing Commander IV.
In 1996, Computer Gaming World named The Beast Within the 17th best computer game ever, the highest position for any graphic adventure. The editors declared Jane Jensen "the interactive Ann Rice". In 2000, Computer Games Strategy Plus named The Beast Within one of the "10 Essential Graphic Adventures", and called it "probably the best video-based adventure game ever released."
In a 2004 retrospective review, Adventure Gamers' Dan Ravipinto called The Beast Within "one of the few computer games to actually involve personal, meaningful growth in a player-character. Easily one of the best Full Motion Video games ever made."
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